Locals watch on as ancient town in southeast Turkey slowly submerges

Locals in Turkey’s southeastern province of Batman watch on daily as a 12,000-year-old town slowly disappears by rising water levels of a dam project.

The Ilısu Dam has already brought the water levels in and around Hasankeyf up by some 15 meters and levels continue to rise at a rate of 15 centimetres per day, Reuters said.

Turkish authorities are pushing forward with a dam project to power the region despite years of international outcry and decades of resistance by local and national organisations.

The Ilısu Dam project, when completed, is expected to raise the level of the Tigris River by 60 metres, will submerge 80 percent of Hasankeyf, home of 2,500 people today, alongside several other villages which are home to thousands of residents.

Hundreds of historic artefacts and monuments have been transported from the ancient town, including centuries-old tombs, gates and mosques, to a nearby cultural park, despite a decision from Turkey’s Council of State to cancel the tender for the move.


The park is part of Yeni Hasankeyf (new Hasankeyf in Turkish), a new town created for residents of the ancient Hasankeyf.

The water has crept up on the shores of Hasankeyf near the end of an ancient bridge, which once spanned the Tigris, swallowing some houses, Reuters said.

Sections of roads in the town are now also under water.

“When I see Hasankeyf being left under water, I am torn up inside. We have memories there but our history is there as well. We are talking about 12,000 years,” Eyüp Agilday, a 27-year-old shepherd, who recently moved to a new town told Reuters.

The Ilısu Dam is part of Turkey’s Southeastern Anatolia Project, which is created to stimulate economic growth in the country’s poorest and least developed region. The dam will become Turkey’s fourth-largest dam in terms of energy production, generating 1,200 megawatts of electricity.

Ramazan Şevik, a resident of a nearby village, came with his two children to visit the town before it effectively disappears.

“We saw the history here but our children didn’t see those dusty beautiful caves. They’ll only a see a version of it with make-up,” he said.